The completely counter productive schedule for an actor. Due to common misconceptions this cycle is considered a normality around the acting traps. It shouldn't be. Retrospectively it is challenging and quite frankly opposing everything an actor is trying to achieve; Clear resonating sound, connection, natural shift changes. Yet smoking, drinking and mi goreng after a 'hard' days rehearsal is considered an appropriate way to process and ground your thoughts in that tricky fight scene. Acting is easy. Good acting is hard. And the only reason it's hard is because you are killing your self, one phallus shaped devil stick at a time.
Everyone knows the degenerative health effects that come with smoking. It hinders almost every neurological process within the body. Adding alcohol to the situation is no better. But I do not need to tell you that. What I do want to tell you about is the role of correct nutrition and exercise when it comes to acting. Besides the obvious physical advantages.
It's all relative mang, and Hormones are king.
Hormones are chemical messengers that signal a target organ or tissue in the body. During exercise, glands are stimulated to increase the production and secretion of many hormones.
Put simply, when we exercise, eat and sleep our body goes through nameless process that both promote the overall protocol of bodily functions and keep you alive. It's hormones that control, initiate and regulate these processes. So the goal for the fitness conscious actor is to learn how to manipulate specific hormones so that we can obtain a certain result (Be it general well being, getting 'toned' or looking like hercules). This is what we will be learning to do within the next few weeks.
We can do this through a number of ways; Correct nutrition and nutrition timing, types of exercise, timing of exercise and of course correct sleep habits.
It's something that is overlooked in regards to health and fitness, but it's a game changer when it comes to giving a great performance. When we sleep, 40% of the blood flow to the brain is diverted to the muscles, sending our body into an anabolic state of recovery. This means things like muscle fibres and skin cells are repaired, making you stronger and prettier. This is mainly due to the increased release of Growth Hormone while we sleep. The heart rate reduces to about 10-30 beats per minute and the skeletal muscles and blood flow is so relaxed that our limbs actually become longer.
As you can see sleep is more then just wet dreams. It promotes long-term energy distribution throughout the day and actually allows you to be more Boss in everything you do. The body needs it to live, and it needs enough of it to perform optimally. The Sleep Health foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours sleep per night, 8 hours being the sweet spot. To be honest it's an easy thing to do, and it's something that, like most things, takes practice to get into the rhythm of. But the Pay-off is massive. Work backwards. Know what time you need to wake up, count 8 hours back and there's your bedtime. It might be different every night to start off with, but as long as you get your 8 you're golden son.
So for all of those performers who have hopes to becoming the next Superman of Thor you have to understand sleep is essential. The physiological stress from exercise creates micro-tears in the muscle fibres. As we know the body uses the sleep cycle to repair. So if we do not get adequate sleep, in both quality and quantity, the body will not be able to repair its self, rendering your daily exercise somewhat counter productive.
Sleep is also increasingly important for the actor when it comes to a season. People talk about post-show sickness, something that seems to always happen when you come out of a big performance period. From previous experience it can be avoided, starting with a consistent sleep cycle. A recent two week season at the Malthouse saw me hitting the sack at 10:45 PM every night, prompting me to wake at 6:45 AM every morning. This allows me to consistently time my energy to peak at show time.
Sleep will help you consolidate your lines. Remember when your acting teacher told you that it takes 48 hours for a note to sink in and settle? Sleep has a lot to do with that.
Consistent quality sleep is a large step toward correct hormone function, and should be regarded as a standard practice for everyone, not just actors. It really comes down to priorities. For a lot of my friends they claim they can't get to sleep before midnight. When I ask them what they are doing, most say sitting behind their computer. It's as simple as disconnecting yourself from technology and creating a before-bed routine that you continue to do every night. Then over a period of a couple of week go to bed earlier until you get to a desired sleepy time. You won't know how important it can be until you do it well. Trust me.
This is just one step into manipulating your hormones to work for you, but it is arguably the most important.
Next we look at how we can use nutrition and nutrition timing to increase anabolic hormones.
For more information on what happens when we sleep, check out Angela Epstein's article from the daily mail here.
And also The Sleep Foundation's Good Sleep Habits here.